ECS 188 Ethics Course Preview, Fall 2014
Spring Quarter is rapidly approaching! I'll be teaching ECS 188, our
ethics course, Section 2 (Section 1 is taught by Kurt Eiselt,
NOT by me).
If you are enrolled in the course or hope to enroll, you should find the
following information useful:
- Goals: My basic goal is to make students aware of
some selected ethical issues arising in technology. Specifically, we
will focus on issues that you may face in your future roles as
engineers, and as technology-related managers, entrepreneurs and
Just being aware of the issues hopefully has an impact on your
future behavior, but I will go beyond that, aiming to equip students
to carefully evaluate the issues and thus make informed decisions.
The latter point is key. Many ethical issues are not nearly so
clearcut as, "Should you lie to your best friend?" They may SEEM
clearcut, but may not actually have clearcut solutions. And in many
such cases, hidden vested interests are at work. It's thus important
to be able to look beyond the hype, and determine just who benefits
and who doesn't; this really is the foundation of most ethical
- Textbook: There is NO formal textbook. All materials
will be public documents that you will download from the Web.
Typical examples: The
Confidence Gap, The Atlantic, April 14, 2014 and
The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It, Jonathan
You will need to bring a copy of the materials to class. This
can be printed paper, or on a mobile device. (Please try not to
use a laptop in class, except during the two in-class exams.)
- Workload: Reading, typically ranging from 25 to 50 pages
per week, occasionally more. Term paper (at least 2000 words, in
No programming. :-(
- Daily Quizzes: Each lecture will begin with my calling
on 5-10 randomly chosen students (among the 24 enrolled), asking
them questions about that day's assigned reading.
- Participation: The core of the course involves student
participation. Students will be expected to participate in class
discussions (in addition to the questions posed to random students at
the start of the class).
Roll will not be taken, and there is no formal minimum number of
lectures you must attend. But the general format of the course,
including the grading, will presume you are "usually" there.
- Grading: The grade will consist of the following
(tentative weights in parentheses): (a) Class participation (15%).
(b) Answering questions at the beginning of each class (35%). (b)
Two in-class essays, including one on the last day of lecture
(30%). (c) Term paper (20%).
- Topics covered: Any ethical issue that is tech-related
in the above sense may be brought in -- you may wish to suggest some!.
I have compiled a tentative reading list,
from which you can see the topics we'll probably cover.
Note: We do NOT pre-assume there is a clear "right answer" to any topic.
- I try my best to be impartial, but one's background always
shapes one's views (especially since I have been involved in some of
the issues, such as age discrimination, H-1B and the Wen Ho Lee
case). To gauge that, here is my bio.